Leadership Qualities

As a developer, at some point in your career you’ll find yourself at a crossroads. Either you’ll stay technical and choose the left path or you’ll decide to take the journey to management, in which case you choose the right path. While the former is admirable, if the latter is chosen then having an understanding of what encompasses a good leader will aid in your transformation.

Self-evaluation is difficult but I would challenge you to ask the following questions of yourself:

  • Do you think people perceive you as a leader?
  • What part does your technical abilities play in leadership?
  • How can you convert your current activities today to be a leader tomorrow?

Based on your answers, building a career development plan will be beneficial to address any gaps that may exist but this will also help you recognize what qualities you, as a leader should have. Career mentorship is another great way to expand your capabilities and in the process, grow your network of leaders.

The Leadership Curve

As a new leader, you’ll most likely find yourself following the Leadership Curve. This curve has predictable sections and illustrates a few key concepts:

  • Embrace the curve – To move up you first must move down
  • Your career success depends upon going into the “pit of success”
  • Avoidance (regarding specific decisions, knowledge, people or tasks) will influence your acceleration through the curve
  • The addiction curve (i.e. whereby you only do the things you do well) won’t allow you to be successful

Leadership, Management and Coaching

I'll also mention that many people confuse leadership, management and coaching. To remove such ambiguity, here’s one way of thinking about each:

To Lead

By shaping the workplace through vision, innovation, and inspiration. By moving people emotionally to make that vision a tangible reality. 

To Manage

By shaping work, projects, tasks, and outcomes through a system of organizing, planning, and directing. By removing roadblocks and clearing the deck so the team can get things done.

To Coach

By shaping and developing people through real-time, on-the-job training, observation, feedback, and follow-up. By making it personal, hands-on, on-going, and focused on the individual.

Final Thoughts

While there are many behaviors that excellent team leaders possess, here are 3 key ones:

  • Asks precision questions to remediate issues and mitigate risks
  • Helps the team practice the habit of reflection, a skill critical to optimal learning
  • Reduces fear or apprehension the team may feel about change

In the end, embarking on a career progression towards leadership is an exciting endeavor although it’s not without its challenges. Never the less, becoming a well-rounded leader is a process that truly never concludes and is hopefully filled with a lifetime of achievements.